Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
In my building I provide the first line of technology support. When a computer, printer, copier, phone, etc. does not work the way it is anticipated to work, someone yells for me (it is a small building). Very often fault lies in the “anticipated” way the machine should work because it does not match the way the machine actually works. A little bit of education resolves that problem. When there is an actual issue with a machine, my next step is to stare at it thoughtfully for a few moments, press a few buttons and then turn it off and back on. A simple reset almost always solves the issue with the machine. The readings today reflect times when God did a reset with his people.
The Jeremiah passage begins with God about to turn Israel and Judah back on. They had been turned off because of the broken covenant. Conquerors overran the land and carried the people and livestock away. Because the people violated the prior covenant, God put in place a new covenant with the people coming to the land. This covenant bridged the first covenant with the people and the covenant we have through Christ. God promised he would not punish all the people for the sins of some, but that each person would be held accountable for his/her own sins because God placed the law in their hearts rather than restricting it to scrolls in the Temple. The law was not replaced; it became personal to each individual.
By the time Jesus arrived, the religious powers had again turned the law from the personal guidelines God made to an oppressive black/white application of the law. With the absolute application of the law, some groups benefitted and some did not. Jesus’s parable of the old woman pursuing justice until the judge relented, giving her the justice she should have had from the beginning because her protestations wore him down, demonstrated how God’s justice for us all is swift, but that humankind can pervert the intention of the guidelines for that justice into ways that profit them at the expense of God’s justice. The widow’s faith/determination/persistence delivered the expected justice that did not always happen in the society. Jesus reminded those hearing that their faithful prayers would bring God’s justice - the key being the faithful prayers.
In the passage from the second letter to Timothy, Paul recognized certain sacred writings extant throughout Timothy’s life that instructed people in the faith. He declared that they were able to perform for Christians under the salvation covenant what the law did for the Israelites before: teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. The teaching of salvation through Christ was the reset that came under this latest covenant. Instead of the law, the covenant was based on the relationship with Christ (God).
Pauls history as a Jewish leader gave him experiences that few others had. When he warns the church about groups turning or twisting the teachings to their benefit he knows how this was done from first-hand experience. Jesus’s teachings only gave two rules; everything else was guidance on how to live and bring honor to oneself and God. Paul knew that whether it was law or teaching people would alter, interpret, or emphasize it in ways that would most benefit them and warned the church to beware of anyone whose teaching did not follow the intent of Jesus’s teachings. So many of Jesus’s parables, like the one today, pointed out how misguided people (religious leaders, judges) were by enforcing the letter of the law while completely missing the intent.
God provided opportunities for nations and individuals throughout history to reset. They realized (or were conquered and exiled to drive home the point) that they had strayed from God’s direction and then had the opportunity to return to the right relationship with God. What a great relief to know that when we break the covenant and stray from God’s intent we are always welcome back.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org